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LEDTronics FlashLED

LEDTronics FlashLED Light, retail $29.95 to $45.95 (http://www.ledtronics.com)
Manufactured by LEDTronics (http://www.ledtronics.com) or call 1-800-579-4875
Last updated 11-01-06


LEDTronics KeyLED Light


The FlashLED is a high-powered "N" cell LED flashlight housed in a sturdy aluminum body. It looks suspiciously like a small Mag-Lite, but once you turn it on, those looks (and your idea of flashlights in general) go right down the toilet - for the FlashLED is nothing at all like a traditional flashlight - aluminum or not.
The FlashLED is also "convertible", meaning if you can't find "N" cells at that "next rest stop 250 miles" place, go ahead and buy "AA" cells. This light lets you use those common batteries instead, but with some loss of brightness.

The FlashLED is available in numerous configurations - some with 3 LEDs and others with 6 LEDs. See test notes below for a complete list of available colors and LED configurations.

The three models being tested today are their 6-LED white, 3-LED blue-green, and 3-LED green-aqua.

SIZE:



Test samples of both 3-LED and 6 LED versions came with batteries already installed.

LEDTronics KeyLED Light Push the rubberized button until it clicks to turn it on; push again to turn it off. Pressing the button down only partially allows you to signal with this flashlight; this "signalling" mode is also handy when doing just a very quick search in a bag or something else that requires only a few seconds of light.

Since most of the complexity with this flashlight is inside the battery compartment, everything regarding batteries will be explained there.

The samples came with a handy-dandy flip-up holster, allowing you to keep this flashlight at your side and out of the way. The holster has a strong spring clip designed to fit on a belt or other thick fabric edge.
Additional holsters can be purchased from LEDTronics and will fit several models of LEDTronics flashlights.

Two models of this light showed up at my doorstep; one produces an even, wide brilliant white beam; the other a more irregular, considerably dimmer aqua-green beam.
A third sample (a replacement for a misidentified unit) arrived later. The replacement is uncommonly bright, and has a very wide, relatively even beam.

The reasons behind this lie with the LEDs inside: the white model uses a cluster of six Nichia 5600mcd white LEDs; while the blue-green uses three (apparently) Cree 505nm blue-green LEDs.
The true green models use Nichia's 10,000mcd pure green LED. Know this when you compare the beam photographs farther down this review.

This flashlight was designed with aircraft aluminum and O-rings, and should be weather-resistant if not downright waterproof.



The FlashLED is unusual in that it allows you to choose among two battery types for specific uses: three "N" cells for greater brightness, or two "AA" cells for longer battery life at a reduced brightness.
The light comes loaded with "N" cells, so let's start there.

Unscrew the tailcap until it comes off, and set it aside. Watch that the long spring doesn't fall out unnoticed.
Dump out the old batteries in your hand, and remove the black plastic band or collar that's on the bottom of one of them, setting it aside. Now you can throw the dead batteries away.
Slide in two of the three new ones, button-end first. Push the black collar onto the bottom (flat side) of the last "N" cell, and place that in the flashlight button-end first. Now you can screw the tailcap back on, and be done with it.
The collar is there to keep the batteries centered in the flashlight while you're putting the tailcap on. Since "N" cells are a little skinnier than "AA", they can sometimes get shoved to one side of the flashlight and not make good contact with the spring. The black collar prevents this from happening.

If you choose to use "AA" cells instead, you will need to remove & save the long spring from the tailcap; then insert the batteries button-end first and screw it back together. Easy enough.
Remember to remove & save that black collar from the "N" cells you took out as well.

Battery life isn't stated on the packaging or in additional info sheets I received; so this will have to be tested over time. Since I just received this light, these results are not yet available and the batteries are still like new.



These lights look (and may actually be) incredibly tough, but I've been seeing various faults show up in both samples even before the first one fell to the floor.
The white model has been travelling with me for the last several days, and has lived a rather luxurious life in my carry-around bag. Today, it started to flicker, then went completely out. Shaking the flashlight caused it to flicker and blink; and gently tapping the head in my hand restored operation for a short time. A visual observation showed the LED platform inside to be loose; it moves slightly from side-to-side when the light is tapped against the hand; this was confirmed with a sharp pinging noise that is produced when just the head alone is gently tapped on its side.

The blue-green model flickered when I tried to run it with 2 "AA" cells. The cause of the flickering was localized to bad contact inside the light; the spring doesn't apply enough tension on the batteries to maintain a reliable connection. The remedy for this was as simple as gently stretching out the spring.

You know, I'm almost afraid to try dropping or throwing these; as I have become quite fond of them, especially the 6-LED white model. Be that as it may, here goes...

Test 1: The blue-green FlashLED survived one toss to the floor and one kick (causing it to slide across the floor and slam into a wall), and went out when it was dropped a second time. It is now flickering exactly the same way the white model started to do.
Inspecting the head found nothing wrong; it came back on when the tailcap was partially unscrewed and then retightened.
Subsequent tests, including rapping the flashlight against a steel pole both near the head and near the tailcap did not affect it whatsoever.
As best as I can determine, the intermittent was caused by contaminants on the tailcap's threads which acted like an insulator; as proper operation was restored by unscrewing & replacing the tailcap.
Further beatings resulted in no flickering.

Test 2: The white FlashLED was nearly unaffected by two substantial drops on bare linoleum from 5 and 8 feet plus a 6-foot kick & slide, nor was it affected by beating it against the pole.
In fact, it seems to be working better than it was earlier today.
The only difference I can see is that two of its LEDs have tipped inwards significantly and the others moved inwards only slightly. This didn't affect its performance drastically, other than causing a slight widening of its beam.
Nothing to worry about here.


Test 3: IT'S MILLER TIME...with a 128 ounce novelty Bud bottle & cool water.

water test water test water test
1: Oh, that poor, innocent flashlight.
2: Splash! There she blows!!
3: blub blub blub... see it glow inside the bottle?

water test
And here it is afterward. Dry as a bone inside. Not to mention clean as a whistle.

The loose LED platform in the white may come back to haunt me later; however since both have lifetime warranties and both appear to be working properly at this time, these anomalies won't be considered in their ratings. If you should experience a similar problem in yours, it will be replaced or repaired by the manufacturer under this warranty.

Note: this warranty will not protect you if you beat your FlashLED against a steel rod until it dies, if you flush it down a toilet, or if you run over it with your Acura Integra.


Now, onto some positive points...
The FlashLED has a fully rubberized switch, protected with soft rubber fins on both sides. This arrangement serves as a very effective anti-roll device, which prevents the flashlight from rolling away when it is lying on its side on an uneven or tilted surface.
The fins serve double-duty as a switchguard, helping prevent unwanted activation in your pocket or in your camping gear.
I found the switch to be a little hard to push all the way down until it clicks; however this "stiffness" gives it additional protection against unwanted activation.

This flashlight can also be balanced on its tail on a level surface to function as a full-room illuminator. If a level surface is not available (ie. inside your tent), just prop it up against something or place it in the core of a full roll of toilet tissue.

A strong pen clip and a tail ring round out the light's features. The clip is especially tough and springy, and grips tightly to let you carry this light in a pants pocket or inside coat pocket without fear of losing it. The hanging ring on the tail allows the light to be hung from a lanyard or cord; it was found to be easy to grasp and lift up and it folds back down to stay out of the way when not needed.

All three units are equipped with O-rings for water resistance. No mention is made of this on the packing or other literature, so it looks like bathtime for a particular silver flashlight.
Initial tests (using a mild suction) showed only a very small amount of air leakage; water will have a much tougher time getting in and I don't expect it to flood at all.
The blue-aqua is a demo model that disassembles in a way not originally intended, so this may result in tainted test results if I dunk it. It will stay high and dry for this test.
The newly-received green-aqua model is definitely a production unit, and it will end up in the sink before the weekend is out.


LEDTronics KeyLED Light LEDTronics KeyLED Light
Left: 6-LED white FlashLED with 3 "N" cells
Right: With 2 "AA" cells


LEDTronics KeyLED Light LEDTronics KeyLED Light
Left: 3-LED blue-green with 3 "N" cells
Right: Same using 2 "AA" cells


LEDTronics KeyLED Light LEDTronics KeyLED Light
Left: 3-LED green FlashLED with 3 "N" cells
Right: Same with two "AA" cells.
The very bright beam overloaded the camera on the left picture.



Spectrographic plot
Spectrometer plot of the LED in this flashlight.
Ocean Optics USB2000 Spectrometer on loan from TWO-CUBED.

When used with 2 "AA" cells, the light output drops off dramatically, however they are still useful if you are at least partially adapted to darkness, and you will also see an increase in battery life. This would be a good emergency lighting mode when batteries might be hard to come by.
Use them with three "N" cells when you need the maximum brightness these flashlights are capable of producing.

The white model produces a relatively wide, even beam that serves nicely as a full-room illuminator; it is also useful for household repairs, emergencies, and for walking around outdoors at night.
The blue-green model's dimmer, narrower beam does limit its use, but it should still work fine for emergencies or for times you must preserve your night vision. Unless you shine it directly into your eyes, it was found to not foul night vision like many other flashlights do. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)


TEST NOTES:
Lights were thrown onto bare linoleum for drop tests.
Available in red, orange, blue, aqua-green, blue and white. Optional special colors include "super red" (630nm), blue-green (505nm), ultra blue (430nm), ultraviolet (370nm) and infrared (830-940nm).
All colors are available with either three or six LEDs.

All LEDTronics FlashLED products incorporate a current limiting resistor wired into the LED array; and although this makes the light not quite as bright as some other 3-LED and 6-LED flashlights, it allows the LEDs to last for their rated 100,000 hours. There have been reports of some LED flashlights burning their LEDs out in as little as a day because they use no resistor. That is one thing that won't happen to these flashlights. Another benefit is that the batteries will last longer.

As the blue-green model appears to be a demo or possibly even an early prototype, it may not produce valid results with some tests; such results (or lack of results) are indicated wherever appropriate. It has since been returned and replaced with the green-aqua model originally intended for these tests.

Updates to this review will be posted as they occur.

UPDATE August 10 2000:
The "green-aqua" (actually a blue-green) model is being returned to the manufacturer for examination and replacement with a production model using known Nichia 10,000mcd green-aqua LEDs.
The replacement will be re-reviewed and re-rated when it arrives.

The white model has been working fine since its recent spate of abuse; needing only a tightening of its tailcap to maintain proper operation.
It is also still working at or near "as new" brightness; indicating it should have excellent battery life by the time the tests are finished.

UPDATE August 11 2000:
The proverbial light bulb popped over my head this morning, with a potential suggestion to the manufacturer:
To help prevent the LED board from wiggling around loose inside the light, why not use a couple dabs of epoxy or silicone RTV to fasten it to the receptacle ring it sits on?

A dab of silicone RTV on the bottom of each LED (at the perimeter of the board) would also help keep the LEDs themselves properly aligned for a longer time. The ones in my white model all aim inwards now, causing the beam to be wide and somewhat irregular, and all it took to misalign them was dropping the flashlight a couple of times.
Although this in no way harms the flashlight, if you had gotten used to its original beam pattern and then had an accident that whacked the LEDs, having the beam widen on you for good might take some getting used to.

Onto other news... a total darkness battery change was accomplished somewhat easier than predicted. The plastic collar on the bottom of the last cell could easily be worked off using a thumbnail, and popped right onto the new cell. If you're reasonably careful about where you lay down the loose parts, a nighttime battery change shouldn't be much of a challenge.

UPDATE August 19 2000:
A replacement Green-Aqua FlashLED arrived late yesterday. Apparently, the model I had originally been sent was their BLUE-GREEN 2,000mcd FlashLED, rather than the GREEN-AQUA 10,000mcd model.
As a 2,000mcd flashlight, the original sample would have rated well on its own merits, and received a very good 4-LED rating. Its review here was made under the assumption that it was actually the 10,000mcd green-aqua, which is why it rated so poorly. As a 10,000mcd flashlight, 2,000mcd just ain't gonna cut it. The new flashlight - with the correct LEDs in it - will now be tested and rated alongside the other two already shown here, including a new set of beam pictures.

The 3-LED green-aqua actually appears brighter than the 6-LED cool white FlashLED, but the literature says the white should be a touch brighter.

The green LEDs appear to have just a touch more of a blueish or lime color than some other Nichia green LEDs I've tested; however this only makes the flashlight appear even brighter to the human eye. I had no trouble whatsoever using it to illuminate a darkened house at night. The beam is uncommonly wide for an LED flashlight, and makes this model especially suitable for a "walking around at night" flashlight.
The LEDs appear to be Nichia's NSPG520S, which have a wide, 45 degree viewing angle.
For comparison, the white FlashLED uses Nichia NSPW500BS, an LED with a 20 degree viewing angle.

UPDATE August 21 2000:
One day after the now-infamous beer bottle test, the green FlashLED was found to have fogged up inside. This is indicative of a small amount of water (probably less than a drop) getting inside the flashlight. After removing the batteries, leaving the flashlight standing open-end up on the top of a computer monitor (around 100 degrees F.) appears to have eliminated the moisture. The light will be observed carefully for signs of the condensation re-forming over the next several days.

UPDATE August 29 2000:
No further moisture problems occurred with the green flashlight. Works just fine, thank you.

I finally got tired of the whacked LEDs and irregular beam in my white model, so I removed the head and realigned the LEDs. Although this is not a recommended procedure for the uninitiated, it was by no means difficult. It is one of my favorite flashlights and use it every single day (that's no exaggeration) and I liked it even better with its original beam pattern.
In the coming days, I will probably also fasten the LED board onto its receptacle with GE silicone RTV sealant - giving the flashlight some extra resistance to shock & vibration in the future.

WARNING! Removing the head will probably void your warranty if you end up breaking the flashlight as a result. Do not try this at home.
On these particular samples, the head on the white FlashLED was locked on with Lock-Tite or similar sealant; the green-aqua model's head had no such sealant on its threads.

UPDATE August 31 2000:
It would appear that my suggestion of affixing the LED board inside the flashlight with an adhesive of some form was implemented. This done, I would definitely recommend this flashlight to anybody but divers. Although they will hold up fine in foul weather, the FlashLED is not intended for use as a diving light, and it is not submersible for any length of time beyond the occasional accidental fall into a creek.

UPDATE September 04 2000:
While trying the white FlashLED light with "AA" cells this evening, I noticed that when I had a lithium "AA" cell plus an alkaline, the flashlight worked much better than with two alkaline "AA" cells.
Since I only have a single "AA" lithium, I cannot run any further tests on this until I somehow come across a second one. They're expensive and not available in my city. When and if I obtain two new lithium "AA" cells, these will be tested and some additional results (probably very favorable ones) will be posted.



PROS:
Tough & good looking, water resistant (not water PROOF), bright (white & green models), multiple means of carrying, multiple battery options.

CONS:
Not submersible, somewhat heavier than other small-sized LED flashlights, battery life using "N" cells can be a little short.
          MANUFACTURER: LEDTronics
          PRODUCT TYPE: Mini Handheld flashlight
          LAMP TYPE: LED, 5mm, all colors + UV + IR
          No. OF LAMPS: 3 or 6
          BEAM TYPE: Varies with type & color
          SWITCH TYPE: Push on, push off
          BEZEL: Clear lens
          BATTERY: 3 N cells / 2 AA cells
          CURRENT CONSUMPTION: 60 to 100 milliamps
          WATER RESISTANT: Yes
          SUBMERSIBLE: No feet
          ACCESSORIES: Alkaline batteries. Belt holster optional
          WARRANTY: Lifetime




                PRODUCT RATING:

                DURABILITY: 9
                BRIGHTNESS: 6
                USEABILITY: 8
                BATTERY LIFE: 9
                BATTERY AVAILABILITY: 10

                OVERALL SCORE: 43



LEDTronics FlashLED Light * WWW.LEDTRONICS.COM



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